Reactions: Not everything in life is Likable
Geoff Teehan

Love the breakdown of the process and I admire Facebook’s commitment to designing the best solution for an issue as complex as conveying human emotion, but to me there’s still one lingering concern that I was hoping to see addressed in this article.

While Reactions enables many to express themselves more “accurately,” I can imagine this taking a dangerous turn. As users are provided more options, each “reaction” becomes more deliberate. I’m assuming as time goes on we’ll figure out the appropriate etiquette. But what happens when people don’t follow the etiquette, get sarcastic, insensitive, or even cruel? “Liking” a sad post in the past was universally understood to translate to an acknowledgment of sympathy. Or at least if it wasn’t, we could pretend it was because the only deliberate action was choosing to click the button vs. ignoring & scrolling. We didn’t have a choice to acknowledge it a certain way, so it was acceptable to throw it a like, assume they received the right message, and choose to comment if you wanted to express yourself more “accurately.”

But “loving” a sad post now — does it mean “ILY, you have my support” or “I love that this sad thing happened to you” ?… and there are so many more examples f0r interpreting each reaction differently. Rather than clarify unique emotions, introducing options almost taints something as simple as the nod a “like” signifies.

The key for me comes back to the willful intention thing, though. Every reaction I get won’t just be a survey of “like” or “pass”…it becomes so much more deliberate, so much more earnest to choose “wow” over “like,” and thus more loaded. I try to believe a mature adult wouldn’t load a “love” reaction to a sensitive post with sarcasm, but based on the way my peers used FB as pre-teens, reactions could become a cyberbully’s playground.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping rude people from commenting rude things, but like you said, the “like” button is simple and frictionless — and that’s what reactions should be too. But decreasing the friction between a bully and his target may turn into a real problem. I will say Facebook doesn’t have as big of a troll problem as other platforms and seems to be losing a lot of the younger (and *typically* less emotionally mature) crowd to other platforms anyway. Yet, I can’t shake this potential side effect…evidenced by way too much of my rambling (sorry, did not expect this to become an essay). This isn’t an argument against reactions by any stretch, but something that’s gotten me thinking. As someone aspiring to break into design, I’m curious how the team at FB tackled it.

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